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A Streetcar Named Desire

Elia Kazan

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Elia Kazan’s film of Tennessee Williams’s A Streetcar Named Desire is an all-round tour-de-force. One of the masterstrokes was keeping most of the cast of the original 1947 Broadway production, including Marlon Brando, Karl Malden and Kim Hunter. Another was to choose Vivien Leigh, who had appeared in the London premiere, as Blanche DuBois.

"Easily one of the finest screen versions of a play."

Jessica Tandy, the Broadway Blanche, was a great actress. Leigh’s RADA-trained theatrics, however, are so at odds with the Method acting of everyone else that the character seems all the more affected and out of place in her new, somewhat squalid surroundings. Add to that Kazan’s wise decision to maintain the claustrophobia of the original staging (the Oscar winning sets get smaller as the story progresses), and some ingenuous rewrites by Williams to get around the censors, and you have a masterclass in adaptation, and easily one of the finest screen versions of a play.

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